Dracula's Library

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On a night long ago, when the sky was an eternal black and the bony fingers of tree branches reached out to grasp the crystal ball of the moon, I found myself in an unusual and—would it not have been for the presence of, shall we say, a friend—a most deadly situation. My relationship with my girlfriend had taken an adverse turn. I confess this now because I have been beseeched with importunity to convey this tale, and its telling is plausible only considering this admission. She had abandoned fidelity to our bond and commenced a new affiliation with my pernicious and duplicitous roommate. In grief, I committed to wandering the library stacks for solace. I pray you will follow me down these dark and moribund aisles, back in time to that ill-fated Friday, October 31.

It will come as no shock that I walked the stacks alone. As my compatriots and I are wont to do, there was much reveling in the town, and on this night of All Hallows Eve, we merrymakers were sublimely costumed. To partake in the frivolities, I secured a 30-gallon garbage bag to my neck, which effected the appearance of a cape. Much gelatinous product crusted my hair into a smooth sheen, and the scarlet hue of my soon-to-be former girlfriend’s lipstick delivered the much-desired appearance of blood about my plastic-fanged mouth. She may have painted my lips at the beginning of the evening, but by the end she was kissing those of my traitorous companion, who had lazily donned a Rob Roy tartan flannel and joined the festivities as the Brawny paper towel guy.

My soul as tattered as the polyethylene plastic hanging about my neck, I disappeared into the dark heart of the stacks, where I could cloak my shame in shadow and seclusion. The air, torpid and dense, hung with the timbered smell of degrading paper, and the glow of the full moon lured me to the otherwise cold, black windows. Hypnotized by the glow, I charted my course toward the light, and then I heard it — a peculiar gurgling, like that of a ravenous animal gnawing greedily on a carcass. The din arose from a far corner, and I froze in my steps, unable to move.

As you can imagine, dear friend, my mind swooned, and notions of escape seized me. My body trembled, and the garbage bag vibrated violently. This had indeed alerted the beast to my presence, for in an instant, the scratching and chewing ceased. If not for the rows of thick volumes between us, I am sure we would have been staring at each other, eye to eye.

My innards quaked as the rough scrape of feet and the click of razor-sharp claws warned me of its approach. I could feel its eyes on my back, hear its labored breath, and I braced for a gory and agonizing attack. Though my body felt like wood, I willed myself to turn. In the dim light of the Exit sign I observed his humanlike form, the thick, matted fur splaying from under his shirt, and the immense paws with which he darted down the staircase, after he had eyed my own bloodied mouth and fangs with keen fascination.

At once breath returned to me. I gasped for air and made haste toward the windows, pressing my hands and face against the cold glass, thankful for the milky light of the moon as it arced across the sky. The creature gone, my trembling ceased, and silence attended me like an eerie companion.

I glanced toward the corner from whence the beast had sprung. Squinting into the darkness, I could see no small creature, no telltale remains, on which such a monster might feed. What had that villain devoured with such frenzy? Unable to countenance my cowardice any longer, I took careful steps toward the wretched spot. The moon, now colleague to me in my quest, hastened ahead to illuminate the angled space, hidden only by a desk and chair. Under my feet, I could feel the splinters scattered around the ruins of the chair, rough gouges hewn into its legs by sharp fangs. I reached out my hand to touch the injured wood in sympathy just as the moon cast its light upon it. And then, dear reader, the most frightening, most fantastical event of the whole of my life transpired.

The chair growled.

To be sure, my faithful friend, I fail you not. My faculties lay completely within my grasp, my wits sharpened with vigilance to this most recent and perplexing danger.

As the line between shadow and illumination passed over the chair, and the moon bathed its devastated frame in translucent light, the chair rumbled violently, clattering against the tiled floor as if stomping its feet. Plaintive howling and barking filled the space as, wondrously, course hair wended its way out of the wood grain. No facial forms appeared, no eyes or mouth, but there was no miscalculation—it had clamped its sights on me and me alone.

My chest felt cavernous, and my breath left me yet again. As I gaped at the unimaginable monstrosity, a slow realization, like the line of light created by the moon, spread across my mind:

I am about to be attacked by a chairwolf.

How this deformed and ghastly piece of furniture could run so fast without the benefit of synovial joints is quite beyond my comprehension. But run it did, snarling and rabid in its desire to destroy me. Down the stairs it ran, into the crisp night air, and past the cold stone edifices blazoned with the names of scholars, who, despite their profound linguistic and scientific insight, would never be able to explain the phantasmagoria I was enduring.

Veering toward the house where the ribald events of my evening began, I could see the orange and yellow flames of a great conflagration in the front yard. Costumed merrymakers danced around the bonfire as I drew closer. My only hope was to lure the monster into the fire and, by doing so, incinerate this most demonic of adversaries.

My elation was inopportune, however, because in my excitement, I misjudged my footing. My toe caught on a low stone wall standing between me and the flames, and I rolled to the ground. There, to my everlasting horror, I suffered the crunch of fangs around my leg. I never saw its teeth, but I felt those razors in that moment, the pain searing through every corpuscle of my body.

Nevertheless, I willed myself to rise and charge straight into the revelers. I could hear its unearthly howls, and screams split the air as people fled, not believing their own eyes. I spun around to face the beast, only my body between its hairy frame and the fire, my cape melting behind me. With great guttural and gurgling sounds the creature advanced, intending to lunge at me and send us both into the flames. But then, miraculously, it spied something—someone—beyond the fire. A hairy face with a plaid flannel shirt, it was the brigand who had robbed me of my girlfriend. Believing him to be the wolflike creature who had bitten it so ferociously, the chairwolf instead lunged for my roommate, determined to exact revenge for the destruction it perceived he had wrought. With much satisfaction, I watched as beast chased beast into the blackness of the night, never to be seen again.

This resolution at once brought me relief and pleasure. But surely such a precipitous conclusion cannot surmise the whole of this tale. What of my injury, you ask? I have been bitten by the chairwolf. Am I not a werewolf now, too, doomed to transform into a snarling beast when the moon is full? If only my outcome were that simple, dear reader, and that agreeable to my senses.

Since that fateful Friday, now more than a hundred years ago, my life has irrevocably changed. When the full moon casts its glow upon my body, my joints stiffen and despite the fierce desire of my will, I fall to the ground on stick straight arms and legs, my back flat as a board. No matter my location, when my metamorphosis is complete, I am translated to the corner of the library stacks where my tale began. I yearn to while away those hours in solitude tucked securely beneath the desk, for when I meet with others in my altered state, it is inevitably and regrettably with their end.

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